Kenny Xu writes for the Federalist about UNC medical school officials taking part in a recent controversy.

In January 2023, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), a society of the leading heart surgeons in the nation, held a conference where the outgoing president, Dr. John Calhoon, emphasized merit as the primary indicator of success in the profession.

“Affirmative action is not equal opportunity,” he wrote in a PowerPoint presentation. The “best metric is whether someone does good.”

He also wrote that “defining people by color, gender, religion only tends to ingrain bias and discrimination.” 

This is of course true. Studies by Harvard University professor James Dobbin found that most diversity trainings and workshops have little to no effect on the perceptions of colleagues toward one another. They may even be counterproductive, with some studies reporting greater animosity toward other races out of annoyance at the heavy-handed nature of courses. 

Immediately, medical news outlets called Calhoon a racist, white privileged, and other monikers of derision, but they weren’t the only ones. …

… The UNC surgery department chairs denounced Calhoon’s comments as “hurtful” and “insulting.” They said they “disagree with the essence of this Presidential message.”

Which parts of Calhoon’s speech did they disagree with? The message that merit should be the primary indicator of a good surgeon? The message that defining people by color, gender, or religion is wrong? These are commonsense principles that every American hopes a surgeon should believe in — for the patient’s sake.

Even his most controversial post, where he said affirmative action is not equal opportunity, is obviously true. Affirmative action means giving preference to those deemed “underrepresented communities,” which is a violation of equal opportunity (allowing people to compete on a level playing field).

It is a documented fact that medical schools practice widespread preferences for black and Hispanic individuals. Mark Perry, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, found that an Asian with a 6 percent chance of admission to a medical school has an 8 percent chance if he or she were white, a 31 percent chance if he or she were Hispanic, and an astounding 56 percent chance if he or she were black. Affirmative action does not create equal opportunities.